The Ukrainian government and the pro-Russia forces fighting each other in eastern Ukraine have agreed on a deal to withdraw troops from three battered front line areas.
Under a Wednesday deal, the two sides agreed to pull back their forces from the three small towns of Stanytsia Luganska and Zolote in the Lugansk region and Petrovske in the Donetsk region, which are each four square kilometers in size.
The military withdrawal, which will be monitored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), is scheduled to be completed within three days after its commencement at an unspecified date next month.
“After three months of insistent negotiations…, today we finally agreed a framework document on pulling back forces and equipment,” said Martin Sajdik, with the OSCE.
As part of a de-escalation project, the accord comes after the Minsk agreement, which was itself reached back in September 2014. The Minsk deal reduced the violence in the restive region but failed to put an end to the conflict.
“This document is intended to de-escalate the situation along the line of contact and effectively creates conditions to prevent the use of firearms,” said Ukrainian government spokeswoman Darka Olifer, referring to the Wednesday deal.
“Its implementation in those three areas would allow the working-out of approaches for possible separation of forces along the entire line of contact,” she added.
The conflict in Ukraine erupted not long after people in the country’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea voted for the territory to join the Russian Federation in March 2014. The West has branded the development as Moscow’s annexation of the territory.
In April 2014, Kiev launched military operations to crush pro-Moscow protests in Donetsk and Lugansk.
The United States and its allies in Europe also accuse Moscow of having a major hand in the crisis in eastern Ukraine, a charge that Moscow denies.
The crisis has left more than 9,500 people dead and over 21,000 others injured, according to the United Nations.
Despite the original Minsk agreement as well as another deal also reached in the Belarusian capital in February 2015, the Ukrainian government and the pro-Russians have continued to trade fire along front lines, although to lesser degrees than when the conflict first erupted.
Also on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Russia during his speech at the UN General Assembly.
“Never since the end of the Cold War have international norms and principles been unilaterally defied on such a scale and with such brutality,” he claimed with rhetorical flourish.
“Even hypocrite Soviet leaders could hardly compete with the outright lies and manipulations deployed by the Kremlin,” the businessman-turned-politician said in undiplomatic language.